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Privacy laws not at fault in Parker case - Commissioner

Friday 24 Aug 2012 11:54 a.m.

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By Tom McCrae

The Privacy Commissioner doesn't believe privacy laws are at fault in the case of a Northland deputy principal who abused his students.

The Education Ministry has admitted there was a breakdown in communication between Government agencies but the commissioner says the law isn't the problem.

James Parker admitted to sexually preying on pupils at Pamapuria School in Kaitaia for more than six years.

A former staff member says many of the abused students have rejected counselling.

“I can't see the boys taking this up, I can't see the boys accepting counselling at this moment in time, they're feeling vulnerable and shocked and don't want to be known,” says former Pamapuria School staff member Shanla Mulligan.

 Police warned the school about Parker after complaints from three children in 2009, but the school failed to act.

“I think there was a measure of trying to cover up and trying to protect not only James Parker's behaviour but also the reputation of the school,” says the principal of Kaitaia Intermediate School Kelvin Davis.

The Education Minister says the board has been stood down and the principal is on indefinite leave.

The ministry has accepted there was a lack of information sharing between Child Youth and Family, the Education Review Office and the Teachers Council, but the Privacy Commissioner says that can't be blamed on the law.

“There are many ways under which information can be shared. In my personal view it's got more to do with patch protection and people perhaps not trusting another agency with some particularly sensitive information,” says Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff.

“This is wrong, it never should have happened - Mr Parker and the school need to be held accountable,” says Ms Mulligan.

The ministry has issued stronger guidance to schools around hiring staff and work is underway to strengthen the governance of schools.

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